Harry Potter used a wand. Bewitched twitched her nose. Harry Dresden wielded a staff.
Writers come with their own special form of magic.
Whether it’s pen to pad, stylus to tablet, or keyboard to PC . . . a writer’s magic is as close as fingertips.
New writers often feel that they must pursue fiction writing as they don’t carry a bag of non-fiction writing tricks.
Don’t allow the concept of non-fiction writing to intimidate.
Consider the 3 easily defined categories:
Educating: How-to-manuals, directions, historical explanations, or scientific explorations fall into this category.
Influencing or persuasive: Every sales brochure, each editorial, even academic critiques are designed to persuade the reader to a certain conclusion.
Narrative: story-telling, but in the non-fiction circuit it is to be based on facts. Basic journalism to feature writing, and even biographies would fall under the Narrative heading.
Many authors not only cross genres, but modes of writing between fiction and non-fiction. A writing paycheck can come from a variety of sources and it is the wise writer who pursues all opportunities.
But, this is a cautionary tale . . . Fiction and Non-fiction are NOT the same writing beast, and must be courted differently in order to achieve successful results.
Be concise: get to the point. Getting to the point is crucial in non-fiction.
Know the point of your writing and get on with it.
A) There is some leniency in the narrative form, but study news stories – both print and online – to gauge the quick pacing of these pieces.
B) Educational writing varies wildly and while How-To-Manuals and Directions often taken on the bulleted-format, lengthy historical explanations and in-depth scientific explorations must still contain a very specific path from premise to conclusion. Be careful not to lose your way when working on the longer formats. Outlines can be a non-fiction writer’s best friend.
C) Persuasive or influencing: this writing can be as short as a tag line, a book blurb, a closing sales pitch or deal with weighty issues from politics to retirement planning. A clearly defined goal is the most certain way to achieve the end result of the writing.
Language choices: use power words and precision language.
Keeping in line with the Be Concise attitude, force each of your words to carry their weight. Know (and keep a list) of verbs that are effective and reflective on your subject matter. Equally important, know precisely how to describe the product, the ideal, the event.
Pronouns: the NO-NO for non-fiction writing.
Fiction writers often court pronouns like a torrid love affair. They, those tiny pronouns, can essentially disappear on page and not slow reading. HOWEVER, and it is a huge however for non-fiction writing, especially technical and legal writing, pronouns provide opportunities for confusion. The average fiction reader may not mind re-reading a sentence or even a paragraph if lost in a point-of-view. However, a judge reviewing a motion, brief, or filing will take a dim view of that necessity and however, the mechanic handling a brake job doesn’t want to re-read confusing installation directions due to pronouns. See, I told you it was a huge HOWEVER.
Grammar Rules: they are meant to be followed in non-fiction writing.
Fiction authors, novice to NY Times best sellers will routinely break grammar rules. Unfortunately, many novice writers don’t know they have broken the rules, but that discussion is for another blog post. Non-fiction writers must be intimate with books such as The Chicago Manual of Style; Essentials of English Grammar: The Quick Guide to Good English; and Basic English Grammar for Dummies.
Perhaps, you have read through this blog and questioned?????
But . . .
Aren’t these areas equally important for fiction writers?
I will confirm – GOOD WRITING SHOULD BE GOOD WRITING.
Great fiction writers will brain-storm, outline, and plot in order to begin stories at the most exciting moment and conclude with the perfect resolution. They’ll utilize story-boards, Post-it Notes, Trello boards and various techniques to start and end each scene, chapter, and novel with precision.
Great fiction writers will hone their language choices, then eliminate sentences, paragraphs and even scenes that drag the pacing. Their characters will always ask the right question, supply the most scathing rebuttal, and declare unfaltering devotion with a prose to rival Shakespeare.
Pronouns in fiction writing are more acceptable, and can, indeed, speed reading. But ONLY when done well. Great fiction writers pay careful attention to the use of dialogue tags, body blocking, and paragraph construction to guarantee that readers can easily follow along when pronouns are employed. In other words, these marvelous authors utilize precise language to lead the reader through any maze of pronouns.
Finally, fiction readers will forgive the occasional grammar break, but they depend . . . NO, I believe, they demand that their great fiction writers KNOW those rules and break with intent.
It’s worth saying again – GOOD WRITING SHOULD BE GOOD WRITING.
Whether you are starting your blogging career or completing your first manuscript, consider these writing tips to hone your Non-Fiction skills.